After two years as a reporter for Cocoa Today out of Cocoa, Florida, he joined the Miami Herald in 1976, where he currently (as of 2008) works. In 1979 he turned to investigative journalism, concentrating on construction and property development, exposing schemes to destroy Florida's natural beauty for the sake of profit; several of his novels have plots based around such schemes. Since 1985 he has written a regular column for the Herald, which currently appears weekly.
In the 1980s he embarked on a career as a novelist. He co-wrote three thrillers with fellow-journalist Bill Montalbano: Powder Burn (1981), Trap Line (1981), and A Death in China (1986). After Montalbano became a foreign correspondent, Hiaasen wrote his first solo novel, Tourist Season (1986), introducing many of his distinctive styles and themes.
Hiaasen's fiction mirrors his concerns as a journalist and Floridian. His novels have been classified as "environmental thrillers" and are usually found on the mystery shelves in bookshops, although they can just as well be read as mainstream reflections of contemporary life. His books have been published in 33 different languages.
Hiaasen's Florida is a hive of greedy businessmen, corrupt politicians, dumb blondes, apathetic retirees, intellectually challenged tourists, hard-luck redneck cooters, and militant ecoteurs. It is the same Florida of John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee, but aged another 20 years and viewed with a more satiric or sardonic eye.
In addition to writing, Hiaasen also does speaking engagements and lectures. His first venture into writing children's novels was Hoot, which received the Newbery Honor Award and was made into a movie. Jimmy Buffett played the role of a classroom teacher in the film version. Hiaasen's second children's novel was Flush.
Over the past six years Hiaasen has been working with British theatre producers for the adaptation of his bestseller Lucky You; the resulting play includes music by Loudon Wainwright III, and premieres this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2008.
With Bill Montalbano
Hoot has won both a Newbery Honor from the Association for Library Service to Children and won the 2005 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award, selected for the latter honor by school-age children (grades 4-8) in the U.S. State of Illinois.